Marcescence and other Marvels

Tamme-Lauri_Tamm_suvel“All virtue is a miracle” —Augustine

The oak tree on the other side of our back fence clings to its leaves all winter while other trees loose their foliage. “Marcescence” is the term botanists use to describe the phenomenon. They speak of unformed abscission layers and other arcane causes, but they do not know why some trees refuse to give up their leaves until spring.

I noticed last week, however, that the oak tree was dropping its dead leaves. The process was effortless: One by one the old leaves broke away and fluttered to the ground.

I wondered what brought about this transformation and looked more closely at the tree. I discovered that a tiny new leaf had formed at the base of every stem and had forced the old leaves off the tree. 

“Aha!” I said. “A miracle.”

And so it is that virtue is a miracle. We cannot rid ourselves of the old life and its vestiges. We cannot shoulder the burden of our sanctification any more than we can shoulder the burden of our salvation. “There is no longer any responsibility on you for the work,” writes Oswald Chambers. “The only responsibility you have is to stay in living constant touch with God, and to see that you allow nothing to hinder your cooperation with Him.” Our part, then, is to embrace each day what our Lord is already doing in us and count on him to rid us of all that is unworthy in us.

As we walk with him day after day, taking in his words, seeking to be like him, asking for his help, resting in his wisdom and love, new life will emerge—silently, slowly, mysteriously, inexorably. “The same God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish…” (Philippians 1:6 The Message).1

So, don’t fret…

go for walks,

live in peace,

let change come quietly and invisibly on the 


—Thomas Merton

Written by David Roper

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3 Responses to Marcescence and other Marvels

  1. Martha Nelson says:

    Marvelous analogy!

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Mark Seguin says:

    I am soo glad I don’t have to work for my salvation – becauz I fully know & understand I could never be good enough 4 it! 🙂

  3. Lisa Sargent says:

    Just what I needed to hear today. Thank you!

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